Countdown to Colombia

I felt the sharp prick of the needle pierce into my muscle.

With a quick push of her thumb, the nurse emptied a syringe full of bad guys, in this case an active dose of Yellow Fever, right into my bloodstream. Lucky for me, she was good and it was over before I knew it.

The scores of vaccinations I have received between vagabonding and being in the army have made me into a human pincushion.  You would think after all those needles I would be used to it by now, but I still approach every shot with all the courage of an 8 year old schoolgirl.

“Mr. Rodgers, You may feel achy, tired, and run a fever for the next 3 to 5 days”.

All that for $175 – bargain.

As I sat and rubbed my arm wondering when the fireworks would begin and why the hell I didn’t at least get a lollipop, I was read the standard blurb at travel clinics about how I should “never eat street food”, “never swim in wild untreated water”, and basically avoid all other activities that make budget travel fun.

My head nodded in agreement mechanically but we both know that I have full intentions of breaking most of the “rules” on her sheet.  🙂

And so with Yellow Fever livening up my temperature and my week a little, I have been frantically preparing to leave the country for the second time this year.

Frantic isn’t a strong enough word.  In one week’s time, I managed to move and sell what was left of my possessions, do my 2008 taxes, do a little photography work, and raise nearly $1000 toward my trip.

There were many nights that I literally worked all night, took a 2 hour nap Thomas Edison style, then went back to work.  Hence my excuse for not writing much lately….

I can only give credit to the 2 Monster drinks a day that I consume for keeping me going, albeit it probably cost me a heart valve or two, but in between convulsions and finally seeing the Matrix code I managed to complete nearly everything that I set out to do before leaving. Its a good thing too…

I leave for Colombia tomorrow!

With barely 10 words of cobwebby Spanish rattling around in my brain, a 2005 Lonely Planet, and no plan whatsoever – I will find myself getting off a plane in Bogota around 21:00 Friday night and no clue what to do next.

Interesting.

I have been packing all night and somehow my bag is heavier for this 7 week trip than what it was for my last 7 month trip!

I will be going out in big, metropolitan cities so the usual Thailand backpacker attire just isn’t going to cut it.  Add to this the fact that Bogota is having 30 degree temperature swings (70F by day and 39F by night) and I will be spending time on the coast diving in 100F+ temperatures, plus trekking in the jungles….that’s a lot of clothing options to worry about.

I actually have to carry a jacket, a fleece, real shoes, and other assorted things eating up backpack space that I would never dream of taking to Southeast Asia.  Thow in my SLR camera stuff, a South America Lonely Planet the size of a phone book, and voila – you have one full backpack for a short trip.

One of my most unusual vagabonding preparations ever included growing out my beard and hair to a nice grungy length. Maybe it will help convince the FARC (guerrillas) that I’m just a dirty backpacker with a rucksack full of smelly laundry.  I spoke to a 30-something traveler on the phone that barely thwarted a kidnap attempt in Colombia and he told me they targeted him because he looked too much like a journalist.  I think I’ll keep my business cards and travel writing aspirations to myself this trip.

I took a break from packing tonight and the sharp wind whispering through the trees full of birds tells me that winter is just around the corner. Despite it being cold and rainy in Bogota right now, running back to the equator never sounded better. In fact, if I follow my loose plan of boating down the Amazon into Peru, this will be the second time this year that I have crossed the Equator over land.

I have been on the move so much lately that I don’t think this trip has really sank very deeply into my brain.  Maybe tomorrow as I smell the jet fuel and hear the engine whine when walking across that small gap between plane and gate will I realize that big time vagabonding is about to begin again.

The bad news is I get to hang out in Orlando airport for 11 hours waiting on my flight to Bogota. The recompense for such a vicious layover? My flight price…..only $215 round trip!

I will not be traveling with my laptop this time, but I will still be making blog updates and uploading pictures when I can. Stick with me, this is my first trip to South America and the adventure potential is extremely high…..I can’t wait!

I’ll check in as soon as I can get access in Colombia. 

Que te vaya bien, mi amigos!

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Greg Rodgers

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11 Responses to “Countdown to Colombia”



  1. Simon Colombian October 15, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Oh my friend. We’ve both traveled the world. Both been to SE. Asia and experience the tranquility that Buddhism brings to a culture. Ate the spicy food, learned the weird words…
    I know that this trip IS going to change your point of view in many many ways.

    South America is South America.

    It doesn’t count if you’ve traveled before, South America is completely different. It was for me and I’m from Colombia!!! It’s such a “strong” continent in good things and bad things. The people are just more expressive than you would think. I Love It!!
    You’ll see and you’ll tell me when you get back.

    I can’t say anything else, than have fun (I know you will), Safe travels, enjoy, y la Vida es buena!!!!!!!

    Disfruta de tu viaje por mi mundo, goza y vive!!!

    Que te valla muy bien amigo mio, te estare pensando!!!

    Simon

  2. I can maybe hook you up with some contacts over in Colombia, if you´re interested.. I know of a delightful area that requires walking 12 hours over a mountain, but on the other side you will apparently find “the most beautiful beach ever”.

  3. Bon Voyage… Looking forward to your impressions — whatever they are.

  4. goodluck on your south american trip! be safe and enjoy!

  5. I am looking forward to reading how you got in trouble and then out of trouble with the guerrilas. I know you will have a lot of fun and I suspect you would love this continent quite a bit. Have a FUNtastic time!

  6. Good luck in Columbia, I’m going to South America myself (not Columbia, though) in January, so I can’t wait to hear about you endavours and especially how you manage travelling with very little Spanish knowledge 🙂

  7. I was just planning my own trip to South America and deciding where to go but I avoided Columbia because I’m likely traveling with young kids and it is still a little too dangerous for my liking. I’m fascinated to hear about life there though … I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast. The people I’ve heard are very friendly and easy going. I’m curious as to why you left your laptop back home. In any case I look forward to seeing some pics!

  8. Greg-

    I lived in Bogota for many months and Medellin, as well. Let me know if I can help in any way. If you stay in Bogota hostels, check out Hostel Fatima, it’s probably the most comfortable hostel in La Candelaria. The others can get really drafty, cold and wet!
    http://www.hostalfatima.com/
    La Candelaria gets a little dicey at night, as well as the city center which lies at the bottom. I’ve heard of taxis taking tourists on the “million dollar mile”, which, of course, is a forced extraction of your funds from various ATM machines. Just a heads up. And if really good looking girls come on to you and it seems to good to be true, it probably is. There’s a very good chance they are drugging your drink! Again, not trying to scare you. I lived there 4months event free. But those things are known to happen in Bogota.

    When you head to Medellin, check out Casa Kiwi! Stayed there awhile and they have a great set up VERY close the all the action. Friendly staff too. Very safe.

    Good luck! Safe travels

    -Tristan

  9. Did you just lucky on scoring the $215 from a usual Kayak-Orbitz-etc. site, or was that a special promotion?

  10. I can’t wait to feel the exuberance you must have felt when the plane set off!

    Stay safe

  11. coolness. i’m sad we missed Colombia during our South America trip. looking forward to your experience there!

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